The State of Public Safety in San Jose

By Ed Rast

These are the facts:

San Jose residents, businesses and neighborhood leaders have consistently ranked public safety as the highest city service budget priority.

Our police and fire officers are widely recognized as hard working, motivated professionals and have developed innovative and highly effective public safety programs to offset over a decade of understaffing and budget shortages.

SJPD programs like community policing, gang prevention, and neighborhood action are proven to reduce or prevent crime. License plate readers identify stolen vehicles, and Public Computer Aided Dispatch educates the public about crime in their neighborhoods and citywide.

The fire department is implementing expanded Community Emergency Response training like Heart Safe City to keep people alive until emergency personnel arrive.

San Jose has a very low ratio of police and fire officers to residents. Our public safety departments have faced numerous budget reductions. The failure to maintain officer numbers in proportion to our population and geographical area has resulted in severe under-staffing. Each officer’s workload has dramatically increased as ranks are stretched across an ever-expanding city -— reducing overall public safety.

The results have been slower police, fire and emergency medical response rates than other local cities and many more unreported, un-investigated, and unsolved crimes than we’ve seen in past years.

Even with staff and budget shortages, San Jose has only declined from 1st to 4th Safest Large City in America (over 500,000 population) according to FBI crime data. This shows how effective our police department is compared to other large cities.

In my opinion, San Jose needs a facts-based, less-emotional community conversation about community policing and emergency response; about community expectations, crime rates and how staffing and funding affect outcomes; about how we compare to other local cities, what are acceptable and unacceptable performance measures, and solutions that will deliver the public safety results our community desires.

I’ll share my thoughts about these issues and the data to back them up on this blog. I hope we can have a substantive, productive discussion.

Check back tomorrow for a special guest blog from Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico.